The Brumadinho tailings dam disaster fallout is increasing in intensity with approximately USD 3 Billion of Vale’s assets frozen by Brazilian Government authorities. Information from the disaster is continuing to emerge on an hour by hour basis. We’ve summarised the latest developments as of 6.00 am 29th January 2019. AMSJ will continue to provide updates as information comes to hand.
- 60 now confirmed dead, 192 people rescued, 23 people were hospitalised, 292 employees, contractors and residents were still missing with very little prospect of being rescued according to the local fire department.”After 48 hours of work, the chance of finding [someone] alive is very low,” Col Eduardo Angelo, who is leading the search operation, told relatives of the missing on Monday. “[But] we’re working with the possibility that we’ll find people alive.”
- Rescue workers are battling finding people in tailings up to 15metres thick.
- A number of mine workers were on break in the mine’s canteen area when the tidal current washed the canteen facilities away.
- Firefighters were previously assisting the evacuation of more than 24,000 people from a town that could have been affected by additional flows from the disaster however late yesterday Vale confirmed that the Civil Defense has lowered the critical level of Dam VI from 2 to 1. With this news, people who had previously left their homes have already been allowed to return and the Civil Defense has been able to resume the search for the missing in the region.
- Brazil Government official has frozen approximatelt USD 3 Billion Vale’s assets in response to Brumadinho tailings dam disaster. ABC News reported this morning that ‘state courts and the justice ministry in the state of Minas Gerais froze about $2 billion from Vale assets for state emergency services and told the company to report on how they would help the victims.
- The mayor of the mining town of Brumadinho, has accused Vale of being “careless and incompetent,” and blamed the mining company for the tragedy and the state of Minas Gerais for poor oversight. He vowed to fine the miner 100 million reais (USD $26.5 million).
- Vale President, Fabio Schvartsman said ‘the disaster had happened even after the company followed safety recommendations by international experts.’He reiterated “I’m not a mining technician. I followed the technicians’ advice and you see what happened. It didn’t work,” he said. He has promised “to go above and beyond any national or international standards… We’ll create a cushion of safety far superior to what we have today to guarantee this never happens again.”
- A Brazilian federal prosecutor Jose Adercio Sampaio said that depending on Vale’s culpability in the new disaster, it may change how his task force handles a USD $41 billion case against Samarco Mineracao SA, a Vale joint venture with BHP Group. That case is currently suspended amid negotiations for a potential settlement.“Now an intervening fact has appeared and that may completely change the course of those talks,” Sampaio said in a telephone interview with Reuters. Vale’s asset position may be significantly impacted by the disaster.
- Theories emerging: An industry commentator told reporters that all possibilities for the reason behind the disaster must be investigated. A terrorist or a deliberate attempt cause massive reputational damage to Vale would be considered.
Implications for the Australian mining industry
The case will no doubt bring about a range of implications for the Australian mining industry and is likely to re-focus attention on the efficacy of tailings dams and controls around the protection of overflows from high rainfall events, together with structural defect control. While the Australian mining industry is well prepared for such events, there’s no doubt it will re-focus efforts on effective tailings dam earthen wall control strategies and degradation.
‘It is expected that geotechnical engineering teams will be conducting a review of risk assessment processes for tailings dam management across Australian mining operations in the very near future’ a geotechnical engineer told Australasian Mine Safety Journal.
The impact on Vale’s Australian operations is yet to be determined but a re-focus on safety will be no doubt on the way. The impact of Vale’s assets frozen may also affect local operations in due course.
Image: Instagram sertanejoreprise Brumadinho
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